The island housing India’s only spaceport from where ISRO’s historic missions have lifted off over the years, should ideally have been turned into an idyllic holiday spot.
Had it happened, the 43,360 acre land with a 50 km long pristine beach, thick green foliage, wild animals and sandwiched between the blue sea and an expansive lake, visited by birds from around the world, would today be swarming with tourists and not scientists and journalists.
But then, it is doubtful if the spot could have been made accessible through the 17 km road that cuts through the Pulicat lake, connecting the island with the busy Chennai-Nellore highway.
The road was laid after the island caught the eye of the first batch of space scientists, who were led by Vikram Sarabhai, in 1969, the year in which Neil Armstrong took that ‘small step for a man but a giant leap for mankind’.
Of course, the Indian odyssey to the moon too began from there on a cloudy dawn on Oct 22, 2008.
But, no one had heard of Sriharikota - former home of native Yanadi tribes, who were rehabilitated elsewhere after the then budding space explorers zeroed in on the island for geographical reasons and because there were not that many people to be displaced - till 1979 when SLV-3 1 (SLV stands for Satellite Launch Vehicle) was launched from there.
Before Sriharikota, India’s space exploration was limited to firing a 10 kg ‘pencil rocket’, assembled in an old church building at Thumba in Thiruvananthapuram.
In Sriharikota too, the test flight was for a small sounding rocket ‘Rohini- 125’ in 1971. Though SLV-3 E1 plunged into the Bay of Bengal soon after shooting up, it made news and the world sat up to take note of India’s space exploration capabilities and Sriharikota came into focus.
The next three SLV flights were successful, which prompted the ISRO to upgrade its technology and go in for the next series - into Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle.